Unintentional hazardous substances-related hospitalisations

This section presents information on hospital discharge events from unintentional hazardous substances-related injuries in Aotearoa New Zealand. This factsheet uses data from the National Minimum Dataset from 2001 to 2021.

Each year, many people in New Zealand are injured from exposures to hazardous substances, which are often preventable (World Health Organisation 2004). Chemical contamination of the environment can harm people’s health and the environment. For example, misusing pesticides and aerial spraying with insecticides can damage the ecosystem. Hazardous substances can be widely and unsafely used, such as petrol being inappropriately stored in unlabelled drinking water bottles. Industrial workers may poorly handle large volumes of chemicals, which can be extremely dangerous. A growing number of chemicals are used around the home. If they are not used or stored properly, this could lead to hazardous substances-related injuries.

Acute health effects from exposure to a hazardous substance are diverse and include headache, nausea and vomiting, skin corrosion and burns. Chronic health effects include asthma, dermatitis, nerve damage, and cancer (MBIE 2013).

Factsheets and Metadata

Factsheet: Unintentional hazardous substances-related hospitalisations (Nov 2022) View interactive report Download report PDF
Metadata: Unintentional hazardous substances-related hospitalisations ( Nov 2022) Download report PDF

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Key facts from 2021

  1. Petrol and diesel were the most common hazardous substances, causing the majority of hospitalisation relating to flammable materials, smoke and flames, and organic solvents/hydrocarbons, in 2020–2021.

  2. Household cleaning products and bleach were the most common substances implicated within X49, other and unspecified chemicals and noxious substances, in 2020–2021.

  3. Children aged 0–4 years continue to have roughly three times the hospitalisation rate of the rest of the population.

  4. Males have consistently had 2–3 times the hospitalisation rate of females, since 2001.

  5. Fireworks resulted in 38 hospitalisations in 2020-2021.

  6. West Coast, Whanganui and Taranaki districts had high hospitalisation rates compared to the national rate in 2019–2021.

To view more information about occupational lead in Aotearoa New Zealand, as well as downloadable figures and data, access the interactive factsheet at the top of this page.

Information about the data

This indicator reports unintentional hazardous substances-related hospital discharges using data from 2001 onwards. This indicator is an analysis of the most recent data available from the National Minimum Dataset, provided to EHINZ by the Ministry of Health in August 2021. Data has been pooled to give sufficient numbers for analysis where appropriate. For more information on the list of ICD-10 that are covered in this analysis, see metadata.

Most hazardous substances injuries are considered acute (short-term, intense exposure) rather than chronic (prolonged low intensity exposure) events. Chronic harm from hazardous substances is hard to measure because it is often difficult to determine what caused the harm. This means that data on chronic harm is hard to find and likely to underestimate the number of people affected.


1. Ministry for Business, Innovation, and Employment. 2013. Work-related disease in New Zealand. Wellington. New Zealand.

2. ESR. 2013. World Health Organisation. 2004. Guidelines on the prevention of toxic exposures. URL: https://www.who.int/ipcs/features/prevention_guidelines.pdf (Accessed November 2021)

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